On top of the enchanting Arasbaran Mountains, at dawn, through the radiant beams of sunshine, one would observe how mist spreads out from the jungle, underneath; magnificent scenery recalling some other-worldly postcards. Nomads aren’t obliged to travel far for their sheep and goats to graze, since the area is utterly green. Arasbaran or Qare Daq is a vast mountainous area towards the south of Aras River in East Azarbaijan Province in Iran. It is confined to Aras River from north, Moghan in the east, Sarab in the south and Marand in the west.
The region owes its significance, partly to being home to an extremely diverse range of vegetation and animal species, and in part to the occurrence of a number of momentous historical episodes. To name a few, Kaleybar, one of the most popular landmarks of Arasbaran, was the stronghold of Babak Khorramdin. In the early decades of 9th century he rose up against the Islamic Caliphate and was put down after a two-decade long fierce period of resistance in and around the quite well known Babak Fort. More recently, Arasbaran forests was of the significant strongholds of Constitutional Revolution of Iran, to be more specific, it was home to revolutionary groups headed by Sattarkhan. And finally, in 1925 after the overthrow of Ahmad Shah Qajar and foundation of Pahlavi Dynasty by Reza Shah, to cease the separationists from their advancement, particularly, in border areas, he persisted in cultural and ethnic nationalism and in order to bar the Turkic identity of the inhabitants he changed the name of the region from Qare Daq to Arasbaran.
Furthermore, due to the importance of the area in having a rich flora and fauna, and specifically presence of quite rare species, since 1976, UNESCO has registered the area of more than 75,000 hectares in Arasbaran Protected as the 9th Biosphere Reserved in Iran and listed it as a wildlife refuge. An exclusive feature of Arasbaran forests is the ubiquity of edible wild trees. Hornbeam, Sumaq, a wide range of Berries, Walnut, Hazelnut, Redcurrant, Truffles and a variety of Herbs with application in traditional medicine are some of the local flora. Moreover the region is a natural habitat to various species of birds, reptiles, fish and mammals, namely wild boar, brown bear, wolf, leopard and Caspian Red Deer, or Maral, which, apparently, was going to become extinct but has recently been revitalised.
While travelling in the area visiting the road from Kaleybar to Asheqlu is very much recommended, since many of the magnificent attractions of the region are located in this vicinity, for instance Mikandi Valley, Aynali Forests and Babak Castle. Nevertheless, there are also some other attractions, less frequently experienced by tourists, including visiting the holy mountain, or getting a chance to observe the long-lived traditional lifestyle in the summer camps of the tribes, Ilat, local to the area. Nearly every village in Arasbaran has its own landmarks the, likes of the ancient tree in Kavanaq, Jowshin Fort in Varzaqan, Babak Fort on a mountain Summit near Kaleybar, Khoda Afarin Bridges near Khomarlou and Kordasht Bath among many a more. Additionally, hot springs, some of which equipped with therapeutic facilities, are plentiful in the area and ready to help visitors relax.